The Chargers couldn’t pull off a “W” against the Cowboys on Monday night and knowing their roster talent, that 2-3 record stings. As we look ahead to a tough matchup, Chargers vs Chiefs. Here are 5 things the Chargers need to do to win.
5 Things The Chargers Need To Beat The Chiefs
1. Finish the Pass Rush Plays and Contain the Quarterback
There were a handful of plays on Monday night where Dak Prescott slipped through the fingers of the defense. One of the most noticeable was in the first quarter when he faked to running back Tony Pollard and ran through a big gap for an 18-yard touchdown.
And during that same quarter, Prescott avoided more pressure for a first down with an 11-yard gain. A couple of plays later, linebacker Kenneth Murray missed a tackle on Prescott and defensive lineman Morgan Fox had to bring him down.
There was also the 60-yarder by Pollard, where Prescott escaped pressure long enough to throw it to the running back, who powered through for an almost touchdown, with cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. turning on the jets to eventually tackle him.
According to ProFootball Focus (PFF), there were seven missed tackles on the night and an average team pass rush grade of 64.8. The pass rush was there but Prescott seemed to elude it. For the next game, it’s not only a matter of keeping Mahomes in the pocket, it’s a matter of finishing the play, and making the tackle. Because if you give Mahomes an inch, it’s over.
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2. Cover Travis Kelce
Wide receiver CeeDee Lamb had a night after being fairly quiet during the San Francisco matchup. He had 177 receiving yards, seven receptions, and seven first downs. All of the Chargers defenders had trouble covering Lamb. Cornerback Michael Davis slipped and had to put his body in front of Lamb to stop him after he got a first down. Lamb got taken out of bounds by safety Dean Marlow after making a 22-yard reception. Cornerback Ja’Sir Taylor missed a tackle on Lamb who got 16 yards on the play. Every time Lamb’s on the field, it’s dangerous and Kelce is the same.
Derwin James has often been the one on Kelce during these matchups and sometimes that works, hence the bodyslam from Week 2 of last year, and sometimes it doesn’t, like during Week 11 when he couldn’t stop Kelce from getting a touchdown to win the game. Kelce has a knack for getting into open space and will make you miss. He’s a powerful force and he will not make the Chargers’ lives easy, so it’s important to not give him room to make the big plays. I expect Davis, Samuel, Murray, Taylor, and James to take turns heavily guarding Kelce.
3. Keep Chris Jones at Bay
Defensive lineman Chris Jones has the most sacks of the Chiefs this year at seven, and he’s on track to hit his career-high number of 17 from last year. He’s the guy that hopefully Herbert can use his legs to avoid. Perhaps Kellen Moore can enlist the help of the tight ends more during this game. Donald Parham has excelled the most in pass blocking from that position group.
Herbert not only needs to stay mobile but the offensive line needs to keep up and as long as Will Clapp is in for Corey Linsley, it’s looking a bit more precarious and Herbert will need all the help he can get.
4. Make Kansas City Run the Ball
Besides the gain that Pollard made during the fourth quarter, the Chargers kept him to only 30 rushing yards and did a better job containing the run. The Chiefs main running back is Isiah Pacheco and he has three rushing touchdowns with 387 rushing yards. If Mahomes is kept in the pocket and he has to execute more run plays, the Chargers should be able to cut down on the gains made by Pacheco, giving them a chance for some turnovers.
5. Fix the Run Blocking and Run Game
According to PFF, the highest run defense grade for the Chiefs this year is 69.6. Though the offensive line is a little fragile without Linsley, if the Chargers can work on their run blocking, and Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelley can get some lanes, they should be able to make an impact and beat the Chiefs on the ground.
The run game struggled on Monday with the return of Ekeler, so this is something they have to turn around. The Chargers should utilize other running backs like Kelley and Isaiah Spiller instead of just relying on Ekeler. Giving others a chance may lead more to the element of surprise, especially with Spiller where the Chiefs haven’t seen as much of his tape. And this is another situation where the use of tight ends may help.
As Brandon Staley said in his post-game press conference, improving the run game will take the entire offense and not just the offensive line. The whole offense needs a jolt before Sunday.